Why are my brakes producing a burning smell?

Burn marks on the brake rotors are a sign of brake wear.

If your brakes are producing a burning smell, it could indicate a potential issue with the braking system. Here are some common reasons why brakes can generate a burning smell:

  • Overheated Brakes: Excessive heat buildup in the braking system can cause a burning odor. Continuous or aggressive braking, such as riding the brakes or excessive braking on downhill slopes, can generate excessive heat in the brake components, leading to overheated brakes and a burning smell.
  • Sticking Brake Caliper or Brake Pad: A sticking brake caliper or brake pad that does not release properly can create constant friction against the rotor or drum. The resulting excessive heat can lead to overheating of the brakes and produce a burning odor.
  • Worn Brake Components: Worn brake pads or shoes can result in metal-to-metal contact between the brake pad backing plate and the rotor or drum. This friction generates significant heat, causing the brakes to overheat and emit a burning smell.
  • Brake Fluid Leakage: Brake fluid leakage onto hot brake components, such as the brake calipers or rotors, can cause a burning smell. Leaking brake fluid can come into contact with these hot surfaces, resulting in a chemical reaction and the characteristic burning odor.
  • Seized Brake Components: Seized or stuck brake components, such as caliper slides or brake pistons, can cause the brakes to drag or not fully release after braking. This continuous contact and friction generate heat, leading to overheated brakes and a burning smell.
  • Incorrect Brake Pad Material or Improper Installation: Using the wrong type of brake pads or improper installation can result in excessive friction and heat generation during braking. This can lead to overheating of the brakes and the associated burning odor.

How to extend the life of your brakes


Is it safe to drive if your brakes are producing a burning smell?

If you notice a burning smell coming from your brakes, it is essential to have the braking system inspected by a qualified mechanic. They can identify the cause of the issue and perform the necessary repairs or maintenance to ensure the safe and proper functioning of the brakes. Ignoring brake problems can lead to decreased braking performance, potential safety hazards, and costly repairs.


Driving habits that can cause hot smelling brakes

There are three main reasons why this might be happening to your brakes:

Incorrect Brake Use

Your brakes use friction to make your vehicle slow down as it’s moving. This friction will produce heat. If your brakes are used normally, they will be able to handle this heat. However, when you are very heavy on your brakes or excessively pump the brake pedal, the brake discs and brake pads (or drums and shoes) may reach an unhealthy heat level. This can lead to overheating and a noticeable burning smell.

Leaving the park / hand brake on while driving

The handbrake or parking brake is meant to stop your vehicle from moving when parked. Therefore, forcing your car to move while the hand brake is still on means excessive heat in your braking system, triggering the foul smell. Simply turn off the handbrake or parking brake brake and drive as normal. If the brake was on for an extended period of time however, the brakes may need to be examined by a mechanic due to excessive wear or heat damage.

New brake components

A hot smell after some new brakes are installed is normal for a few hours after installation. The scent usually means that the resin in your new brake pads is curing, which means the material is getting stronger with use. If the smell does not go away after a reasonable amount of time, there may be a problem with your front brakes’ calipers and should be examined again by a mechanic.

Learn about brake caliper repairs in Hamilton here

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Brake Repairs & Inspections in Hamilton

Have you noticed your brakes smelling hot, giving off a strong odour when braking, or when your car comes to a stop? If so, then Grimmer Motors can help solve the problem for you. Our team of quality automotive technicians will examine your braking system for any issues, and then inform you about any problems found and possible solutions.

For brake repairs and inspections in Hamilton, contact Grimmer Motors today!

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